Thursday, June 01, 2006

On language and translation. Russian. (poetry).

I woke up thinking about what I had said about Akhmatova last night, and what I have come to realize is that in all Russian poetry I prize, above all else, everything I love about the language itself. The lightness of it, the weight of it, the swiftness of each word, the emotions that slide beneath the skin, strike straight into the heart. The words have their own music that cannot be translated. I know I have said this before, regarding Pushkin, but it came more clearly to me when I was reading Akhmatova last night, that in translation everything either falls too heavily, the words like dull, leaden weights, or too lightly, too glibly. (I hate the word glib, but it comes closer to what I mean than any other word). Perhaps even too overly sentimental. What seems clear and pure and beautiful in the original Russian becomes fluffy, insubstantial, like cotton candy that dissolves into excruciating sweetness and leaves no lasting memory behind. I have to find the quotation about Russian poetry and language, because it echoes my own thoughts, only with more clarity.

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